At least 1,000 Al-Qaeda suspects nabbed in Pakistan, new study reveals

A recently published study by a Pakistani think-tank revealed there were at least 1,000 Al-Qaeda suspects picked up in Pakistan over the past four years. The study, conducted by the Pak Institute for Peace Studies, based on monitoring media reports, disputed the official figure, of 660 detainees, given previously by the Pakistani government: “Pakistani security agencies arrested more than 1,000 al-Qaeda suspects between January 2002 and May 2006. Of them, 70 came from Algeria, 86 from Saudi Arabia, 20 from Morocco, 22 from the United Arab Emirates, 11 from Libya, 7 from Kuwait, 20 from Egypt, 28 from Indonesia, 18 from Malaysia, and 36 from the West Asian countries. They also included 18 citizens of Western countries: 5 from the United States, 2 from Australia, and 11 from the United Kingdom. They also included an unknown number of French and German citizens.� The study excluded the Afghani and Pakistani suspects nabbed by the security forces. There were reports since the start of the manhunt for al-Qaeda suspects that the Pakistani intelligence services were exaggerating the importance of many of the detained Arab detainees, to appease the US and gain more financial and political support for General Pervez Musharraf’s regime. There were occasions too when the Pakistanis handed the Americans ordinary Arabs, not involved in politics, as “high value al-Qaeda targets.� Pakistan was also the destination for several rendition flights, in and out, that ferried Islamist terror suspects to interrogation centers in the Middle East and other locations.
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Egyptian Police Sexually Abuses Pro-Democracy Detainee

The two Youth for Change activists, Mohamed el-Sharqawi and Karim el-Sha'er, arrested yesterday by plain clothes security, were brutally tortured and sexually abused, say their lawyers and fellow activists who managed to see the two last night at the State Security Prosecutor's office. Sharqawi was kidnapped, according to accounts by lawyers and activists as he was leaving the Press Syndicate on Thursday afternoon, roughly 5pm. Plainclothes security agents and thugs grabbed Sharqawi in Abdel Khaleq Tharwat St., beat him, and shoved him in a car, which took him to the Qasr el-Nil Police Station. Shortly after, his fellow activist Karim el-Sha’er was leaving the syndicate in the private car of Dina Samak, a six-month pregnant journalist with the BBC, and the wife of Ibrahim el-Sahary, a leftist activist who’s currently locked up in Tora prison with other pro-democracy activists. Dina Samak called me last night, in a state of total shock and trauma, to say her car, was followed by a taxi, as soon as she got out the syndicate’s garage. The taxi cut the road in front of her. Plainclothes security came out it, and were joined by others thugs standing by. They started hitting Dina’s car till they smashed the windows, dragged Sha’er out of it with a doze of beatings. There were other journalists too in the car, Jihan Shaaban, Ahmad Salah and Dina Gameel. All were assaulted. Samak was taken to the Judges’ Club for medical aid. “They (security) have reached such a low level, that I feel we are cattle, not human beings,� Dina told me. “The sexual abuse, the torture, the detentions won’t stop us from overthrowing this rotten regime.� [You can get pictures of the attack on Wael Abass's website. He also recorded a video testimony (in Arabic) with Dina and Jihan.] Sha’er was shoved in a car and taken to Qasr el-Nil Police Station, where he and Sharqawi were blindfolded and handcuffed. They were brutally tortured, according to their lawyers. Sharqawi was also sodomized according to the lawyers and Kefaya statement. Later they were taken to the State Security Prosecutor’s office in Heliopolis. Those who saw them last night, including leftist activist Salma Said, told me the two boys were “bruised, in total shambles. There is not a single place in their bodies which does not have a red or blue mark.� I spoke with the activists’ lawyer who managed to see them finally in the night, after initial refusal of legal access by the prosecutor. The boys refused to be interrogated, and requested to be transferred to a hospital and to be examined by the Forensic Medical Authorities to prove the torture. The prosecutor refused to transfer them to a hospital, refused to allow a woman doctor who was with the lawyer to provide medical aid for them, and ruled the two boys were to remain in police custody for 15 days. They were taken to Tora Prison, where other pro-democracy detainees are incarcerated. The request for examination by the Forensic Medical Authorites, if granted, won't happen before Saturday, since today Friday is the official weekend holiday in Egypt.
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O (Muslim) Brothers, Where Art Thou?

One of the big "disappointments," if you can call it such, about yesterday's 25 May demo in Cairo was that the Muslim Brotherhood was no-show. That meant that, aside from the 300 judges that stood silently in front of their Club to demand judicial independence, there were only a few hundred leftists activists in Central Cairo. I haven't heard about what happened in other areas of Cairo, or in the provinces, so there may be a lot more people out elsewhere, including Brothers. If the Brothers had come to Central Cairo, there would have been thousands on the streets as during the last few Thursdays. Activist friends tell me they heard late on Wednesday night that the MB was not showing up. It's not clear why -- maybe this is a sign to the regime that they are open to collaboration rather than being locked in to confrontation like Kifaya, or maybe they didn't want more bloodshed, violence and mass arrests of their cadres. Either way, it did show that the MB is not a reliable partner of Kifaya activists. It may be that the Kifaya people's strategy is wrong and that the MB is right to led the Judges stand by themselves, without various political groups surrounding them and tainting their actions. I suspect, though, that it had more to do with a self-preservation instinct among the MB, especially after some senior leaders were arrested the previous Thursday. Has anyone noticed that whenever the MB insists on making a big show on the street, spokesman Essam Al Erian gets arrested and then the MB starts behaving? Same thing happened last year. In other news, yesterday three Muslim Brotherhood MPs met with the political officer of the European Union delegation in Cairo. According to press reports (in Al Masri Al Youm), the meeting was at the request of the European Commission. I believe it marks the first meeting (rather than casual encounter) of an EU official with the MB. Mid-level Western diplomats, aside from US ones, routinely have meetings with the MB for information gathering -- is this different? The fact that it was requested from Brussels is also interesting, especially that in many ways the EU has been more militant about pushing democratization in Egypt than individual EU member states. This has largely been due to the awareness-raising work of EU parliamentarians such as Emma Bonino, the Italian Radical Party leader, who has been frequently visiting Cairo for the past four years and even started learning Arabic. I find her politics bizarre, but when she talks about the need democracy in the Arab world, she puts her money where her mouth is. I do wish the Radical Party didn't advocate EU membership for Israel, though. Meanwhile, the NDP protests that it would never, never engage in a dialogue with the Muslim Brotherhood because it's against the law. I suspect Egypt also never had sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky. One more thing: a paper quoted "a high-level diplomatic source" as saying Egypt won't be sending a security contingent to Palestine (presumably to "protect" Mahmoud Abbas). My first thought: OMG the Egyptians are sending a security contingent to Palestine! At least they're considering it. The Egyptian FM has been snubbing the Palestinan FM lately, and the Egyptians have made some (unfounded, or at least they're not sharing the evidence) noise about links between the Sinai bombings and Palestine. Ever servile, Egypt is busily trying to help out with the coming, engineered, fall of the Hamas government.
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Sandmonkey: random quotes from 25 May demo

Some of them are very touching, and others are very funny. (Especially Josh's quote about Abdel Kuddous.) Link.
"Tell your foreign friends to get away from here. That it's not safe for them. That within the next 10 minutes I can't gurantee their safety" A plainclothed state-security agent to me " They say they are not going anywhere. That they are not scared. They have been to Aghanistan and Iraq. You think that you can scare them after that?" My reply to him
"Loving this country in this day and age is a crime. They have made loving this country a crime. Curse them" A random guy on the street
"The MB are defintely not showing up!" "Well, there is Mohamed Abdul Kuddous over there" "Yeah, but he doesn't count. He will protest anything!" Josh from the arabist and me
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Mubarak says protests "evidence of democracy"

Where does he get the balls?
Rallies 'evidence of democracy' 2006-05-23 09:12:47 Cairo - President Hosni Mubarak lashed out at coverage of Cairo street protests in which more than 600 Egyptians were beaten and arrested, calling the rallies "evidence of democracy" and coverage of them "libel and blasphemy". Mubarak said: "Continuation (of the protests) is evidence of democracy", adding that he was surprised by some media coverage. For the past three weeks, international media had shown footage of young activists being beaten in downtown Cairo in broad daylight by plainclothes police.
Someone poison his molokhiya already.
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Cairo 25 May demo: eyewitness account

I just got this email from Hossam el-Hamalawy, who got pepper-sprayed on his face earlier today:

Hi,   State Security police arrested today at least two Youth for Change Activists, who've been recently released from Tora.   Mohamed Sharkawy was leaving the Press Syndicate after attending a demo in support of the judges, in a taxi, when he was stopped by plain clothes security, who grabbed him out of the car. He was beaten and taken away to an unknown location.   Another activist, Kareem al-Sha'er, was leaving the syndicate around 4:30pm, in the private car of his colleague Dina Samak--a six-month pregnant journalist with the BBC whose husband Ibarhim el-Sahary is currently incarcerated in Tora for taking part in pro-judges demos--when they were stopped by at least 25 plain clothes security agents, who kept on hitting the car windows till they were smashed, and dragged Karim el-Sha'er out of it. He was beaten and taken to an unknown location. Dina had a trauma shock the bordered on a nervous breakdown. She was taken by her friends to the Judges' Club.   Earlier in the day, (though I don't have much details), Kefaya coordinator in Qenna, Ashraf Abdel Hafiz, was picked up by State Security.   The police had laid siege on the Press Syndicate, with riot troops, plain clothes security officers, and thugs. We were barred from leaving the syndicate to go and join the judges' stand in front of the High Court, around 1:30pm. When I tried to leave, a plain clothes security officer, dressed in a yellow shirt, pepper-sprayed my face. I couldn't see well for at least 20 mins, during which my face and neck were on FIRE! I wasn't allowed to leave the premise for another hour.   I'm attaching a pic of the security agent who assaulted me. He's wearing a yellow shirt, standing behind the helmeted soldiers talking to a CSF colonel in a black hat.   May 25 Judges Demo 055A
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Journalists, lawyers on trial for revealing election fraud

Got this by email, so sorry no link. (Update: here's the link.)
Journalists face trial for denouncing Egypt vote-rigging Wed May 24, 2:29 PM ET Three Egyptian journalists and a lawyer were charged by a criminal court for denouncing state-sponsored fraud in last year's parliamentary elections, judicial sources told AFP. Wael al-Ibrashi and Hoda Abu Bakr, both journalists with the independent Sawt al-Umma weekly, were charged with slandering a local electoral commission chief and publishing the names of judges allegedly involved in fraud. Similar charges were brought against Abdel Hakim Abdel Hamid, the chief editor of Afaq Arabiya (Arab Horizons) -- considered the mouthpiece of the opposition Muslim Brotherhood -- as well as a lawyer close to the Islamist movement, Gamal Tag el-Din. The publications had claimed they had obtained the list of judges accused of being involved in rigging electoral results from the lawyers' syndicate, where the Muslim Brotherhood is well represented. Opposition movements and election observers had cried foul following the November-December parliamentary polls that saw President Hosni Mubarak's ruling National Democratic Party retain a firm grip on power.
I think that in a way, Sawt Al Umma has been the most daring of the quite daring weeklies. Sure it's lowbrow, but they've had fantastic front pages with hilarious photo-montages. There was a great one a few weeks ago with Mubarak looking at the different phases of the eclipse -- each phase had a word on it, like "corruption," inheritance of power," etc...
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A short, hot afternoon in Cairo

It’s 36 degrees in Cairo but it feels hotter. Walking Downtown is a nasty, sticky business. Midan Talat Harb was quiet around two. Fifteen big green trucks full of hot, unhappy Central Security boys—the foot odor alone should be enough to subdue a riot—and a block of seventy or so of them formed up in the shade next to the entrance to Al Ghad HQ. Outside Madbouli’s bookstore I’m pretty sure I spotted the seventy-something Hagg Madbouli himself, fanning the bottom of his gallebeya gently to stay cool while he checked out the scene. The trucks and the boys were packed tighter up Champollion Street, maybe because it’s a little cooler there. Table after table of bashawat officers with their handguns strapped to their sides and their imported sunglasses pulled up tight around their eyes, sipping tea in the shade and guaranteeing the stability of the state with their legs comfortably stretched out in front of them. The recruits, meanwhile, were sweating in the sun of Sarwat Street. The uniformed ones stood in rows, their heavy helmets shining like eight balls. The beltaguia perched in their usual little huddles of six or ten, leaning on parked cars and smoking Cleopatras. By the time I got to the High Court, the steps were packed with judges, with Mekki near the center. A bit of mugging for the cameras, but on the whole this was the solid, dignified face of dissent—a lot of thousand yard stares for the crescent of sweat-slicked camera folk crouching and stretching for their shots. A smattering of supporters there among the journalists, and a few western diplo-folk as well, skulking at the fringes, picking up souvenir posters and whatever loose talk was going. The grip ‘n grin broke up around 2.30 and the judges made their way up the street to the Club on Sarwat, By then the most energetic demonstration in a while was underway on the steps of the Journalists’ Syndicate next door, with around 150 protestors chanting and waving banners. As usual, they were walled in by half again their weight in blank faced riot police backed up by beltaguia in sweats and sneakers. The officer running things was barking orders at the little guys in their mufti, sending them scurrying back and forth to balance the weight of the protestors inside the line of Amn Markazi as they moved around. Mekki appeared around 2.40, pushing his way to the middle of Sarwat to stand in front of the syndicate. He’s a big guy with close-cropped hair—solid shoulders and a thick body. Stands out in the crowd. He applauded the protestors inside the cordon and raised his hands. The protestors responded, chanting louder and Mekki pushed forward until he was against the cordon. But once the crowd inside started to push toward him, thinning out the line of Amn Markazi between them, he moved away. It was an interesting moment. My feeling was that Mekki had the crowd and could have led them through the line of police, but he didn’t. He backed off and was slipping through the gate and back into the Judge’s Club less than a minute later. Make of it what you will. The protestors kept it up until around 3.20 before dispersing of their own volition. It was still hot as hell, so maybe they’d had enough of chanting and yelling in a dusty roadside sauna, or maybe they just figured that the point had been made. In any event, the beltaguia didn't get any action this time out, and the tea sipping classes got through another afternoon without having to move around too much.
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MediaShift on the Free Alaa movement

Mark Glaser has an interesting article on the web activism around Alaa and the techniques used to attract attention to his cause:
So after Alaa’s detention on May 7, the reaction from the blogosphere and other activists around the globe was swift. They created a multi-faceted campaign to free him and bring attention to his plight in a way that fit with his tech-savvy personality. The Global Voices blog set up a special wiki , which lists all the ways people are promoting his release online and offline. Anyone can edit the wiki to add their own activity or ideas. So far, there’s been a Flash animation , an online petition (signed by 1,100+ people so far), badges to post on websites and blogs, and a special Wikipedia entry . People have even tried a Google bomb strategy, where they link the Free Alaa blog with the word “Egypt” so that Google searches for Egypt will pull up the blog. It hasn’t worked well so far, but the idea is innovative. As DemoBlogger points out on the Free Alaa blog: “The total cost of launching a global human rights campaign using digital tools: $0. The total time needed to launch a global human rights campaign using digital tools: 24 hours.”
The article has some great Alaa quotes in it. On the morning he was arrested, I received a long email from Alaa after I'd asked him a technical question a few days beforehand. It was, as usual with Alaa, passionately geeky and impatient with ignorance about technology. It was also, I think, the first PGP-encrypted email I've ever received. At the bottom was his signature, which I'll have to ask him about when he gets out: "Alaa: Husband of the Grand Waragi Master."
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TomPaine: the "Arab Spring"

Ethan Heitner -- formerly deputy editor of Cairo magazine charged with disciplining this disorganized managing editor over getting things done on time -- reminisces over the "Arab Spring" at post over at TomPaine.com. The recent decision to reopen the US embassy in Libya is discussed there as the "nail in the coffin" of the US' credibility about democracy promotion in the Middle East. I haven't commented on that, but it's obvious Libya is no democracy. Perhaps the most shameful thing is not the reopening of the democracy, but the way Western countries made Libya -- still a Third World country -- bleed through the nose by paying compensation for the Lockerbie bombings after a sham trial. (Read Paul Foot's reporting in Private Eye and elsewhere about that.) That pretty much ended my sympathy with all the relatives of the victims of Lockerbie who decided to take blood money from a dictator to shut up. It really is the kind of thing that makes me fundamentally pessimistic about human nature. Anyway, thanks for the link, Ethan.
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BusinessWeek on Egypt

This BusinessWeek article about Egypt and WEF is amusing:
While economic reforms are proceeding fairly smoothly, the political convoy seems to have hit a roadblock -- a point underlined by recent police beatings in central Cairo of demonstrators demanding independence for the judiciary. Mubarak, who will mark a quarter century in power in October, will eventually die or become too old to rule. But just who will succeed him is far from clear. "It's the million dollar question, " says Orascom Telecom's Sawiris. The regime's jealous guarding of power has prevented strong non-religious parties from emerging, playing to the advantage of the Islamists. Gamal Mubarak, the president's pro-business son, hasn't caught fire as a candidate. On a plane returning from Sharm el Sheikh to Cairo, a prominent Indian businessman worried that Amr Moussa -- the charismatic and populist Arab League secretary general and former Egyptian foreign minister who's a caustic critic of the U.S. -- could seize the opportunity. But in the short term, a successor closer to the security establishment seems more likely.
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San Francisco demo on 25 May

Another city:
Cairo - London - Paris - Athens - the Hague - Seol - Washington - New York - Chicago - Toronto - Montreal - Beirut and now.... San Francisco Hands Off our Judges!! Release our Detainees!! Democracy & Justice now!!! The demo will be in front of the Egyptian Consulate For more information please contact Sherry Wolf at: sherrywolf2000@yahoo.com
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A question for Baheyya

I have a question for our favorite judicial expert and impassioned blogger Baheyya, who warns in her latest post not to turn judges into heroes and "saddle them with the hopes of a nation." Fair enough, the judges are not about to stage a coup as the political scientist Hassan Nafaa recently seemed to suggest in a recent Al Arabi column when he compared the Judges' Club in 2006 to the Officers' Club in 1952. But when she says:
It goes without saying that this is a protracted battle that has been ongoing for decades and will continue for several more. But the battle is not forwarded by treating judges as infallible Olympian beings who will rid the country of all that ails it. It does no good to sensationalise their plight and trip over ourselves coining terms such as “rebel judges” and a “judicial intifada” and all the other breathless assertions. As a citizen, I instinctively love the now-famous slogan “Judges, judges, deliver us from the tyrants!” that is a staple at every solidarity demonstration. But as a professional and an analyst, I cannot succumb to the fantasy that judges are the deus ex machina that will realise democracy, restore justice, and make life wonderful. Judges are already grappling with tremendous stresses. It’s highly unfair to saddle them with the hopes of a nation.
I don't see the problem with the term "rebel judges." The judges are not unanimous in protesting their situation, just as they were not unanimous in condemning the fraud in the elections. There are clearly judges who are more willing to contest the authorities than others. The "rebels" might make the majority of the Judges' Club if we are to go with the election results that brought Zakariya Abdel Aziz to power, or a lot less than that if we go with the current estimates (guesses?) that between 1,500 and 2,500 are supporting the Club's campaign for Bastawissi and Mekki and the wider one for new judicial independence legislation. Are there not, in fact, pro-regime judges and "rebel" ones, in the sense that they are rebelling against a system? They may have been disgruntled for a long time and raised this issue before, but it seems that the current "rebellion" takes their complaints to a whole new level. The same judges that worked within the system for a long time are now opportunistically (I don't mean that in a bad way) taking advantage of changed political conditions to make their demands. So "rebel" is not that inappropriate. I didn't attend the meeting of the Club that immediately followed the verdict on B&M, but a friend who did told me that they seemed intent of continuing their demands from what they said. (He also spoke of an Islamist tinge to senior judges' speeches, but that may have been a way to thank the remarkable support Muslim Brotherhood MPs gave the Club. The MPs stayed a few minutes to congratulate the judges and then left, wisely, as there are enough accusations in the state press that the MB are behind the Judges' crisis as it is -- Al Ahram editor Osama Saraya said as much last week, also blaming the MB for sectarian violence and other ills.) But the speculation in the press and among activists that the Judges may now stand down their activism (end the sit-in, negotiate a judicial independence bill with the NDP, etc.) is perfectly legitimate. And as Baheyya herself points out, it is unreasonable to expect the Judges to assume the leadership of Kifaya or the wider anti-Mubarak, pro-democracy, whatever-you-want-to-call-it movement. They're campaigning for judicial independence, not regime change. Their "rebellion" ends when they get what they want, or possibly even a compromise. In other words, are the Judges' playing an all-or-nothing game? Will they insist on every single one of their demands? These are legitimate questions for the press and analysts to have. Not putting judges on a pedestal also means recognizing that they might be mostly fighting for their corporate interests.
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